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Ezogelin- Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Mint and Sumac

11 May

I had to make this soup when I read the story behind it. It sounds like an ancient myth but is actually from the 20th century. I love a tragic love story that includes a recipe don’t you?……

Ezo-gelin translates as Ezo The Bride. The origin of this soup is attributed to an exceptionally beautiful woman named Ezo, who lived in the village of Dokuzyol near Gaziantep in the early 20th century. Legend has it that Ezo, with her rosy cheeks and black hair, was admired by travellers along the caravan route who stopped to rest in her village. Many men longed for her hand in marriage and Ezo’s family hoped to secure a worthy match for their daughter.

Unfortunately, Ezo the bride, didn’t have much luck when it came to finding marital bliss. Her first husband was in love with another woman and she divorced him on grounds of maltreatment. Her second marriage took her to Syria where she became homesick for her village and had to deal with a difficult mother-in-law who couldn’t be pleased. It is for her, the story goes, that Ezo created this soup. After bearing 9 children, poor Ezo died of tuberculosis in the 1950s and has since become a Turkish legend, depicted in popular films and lamented in folksongs. Her name lives on in this popular soup, which is now traditionally fed to brides to sustain them for the uncertain future that lies ahead.

It kind of reminds me of Princess Diana’s story with the husband in love with another woman and the very difficult mother-in-law. Maybe they should have fed it to Kate before her wedding to William!!

I love the idea of a tradition where the modern brides in Turkey are fed a soup with a story to prepare them for their married life ahead. It’s in stark contrast to the custom in the UK where the bride dresses up as a tart in a veil with  L plates stuck to her drinking as many shots of Tequila as possible while watching a slimy male stripper with a can of squirty cream. Give me the soup any day…..

The original soup contains bulgur wheat which I have replaced with quinoa to keep it gluten-free. Sumac is a crushed dried berry used in Middle Eastern cooking. It is sold in powdered flakes and has a smokey, spicy, lemony flavour. See picture below. If you don’t have any leave it out, just make sure you have the lemon wedges to squeeze over and fresh mint for the top.

Ezogelin Corbasi- Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Mint & Sumac

serves 4-6, vegan, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  •  1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp tomate frito (tomato paste)
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1  tbsp dried mint
  • 150 gr (1 cup) dried lentils, red lentils if possible
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) wholegrain rice
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) quinoa or bulgur wheat
  • about 1 1/2 litres veg stock (or a mix of water & stock)
  • 1 tbsp sumac (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  •  fresh mint leaves, chopped for garnish
  • sumac for garnish (optional)
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over a medium heat. Cook the onions, carrots & celery with a pinch of salt for 4 or 5 minutes until softened and lightly golden. Then add the garlic, cumin seeds, paprika, chilli flakes, cayenne, tomato & tomato paste and cook for a further 5 minutes

Add in the lentils, rice & quinoa (or bulgur wheat) and stir to coat in the tomatoey spices. Add the veg stock/water, season well with salt & black pepper, add the dried mint and bring to the boil.  Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes everything is tender.

If you like you can remove a ladleful of the soup and blend it until smooth, then add it back into the soup. This gives it a smoother thicker consistency. Add the sumac, taste for seasoning, add more salt or mint if necessary. Bring back to the boil.

Serve in warm bowls sprinkled with chopped fresh mint leaves, a little sumac and some lemon wedges to squeeze over.

I would think this soup could be a good hangover cure for the bride recovering from a few too may tequilas as well.  Just remember poor Ezo….

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